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Doc "The Girls In The Band" Highlights Untold Stories Of Women Jazz Instrumentalists From 1930s To Today

by Tambay A. Obenson
November 25, 2011 11:15 AM
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"Only God can make a tree; only men can play jazz," said George Simon, the late American jazz composer and drummer.

Director Judy Chaikin's new documentary, The Girls In The Band, dismisses that notion, highlighting the untold stories of women jazz and big band instrumentalists, from the 1930s to the present day.

I'd say, for the average enthusiast, it's likely an easier challenge to name women jazz vocalists than instrumentalists. Images like the one above probably aren't the first to come to mind when most of us think of jazz music. And Chaikin's doc hopes to influence that, with this poignant narrative, which includes lots of wonderful archival footage, telling the fascinating stories about lives and careers of these trailblazing women who endured sexism, racism and diminished opportunities for decades, yet continued to persevere, inspire and elevate their talents in a field that seldom welcomed them.

The film also looks at the present-day young women who are following in the footsteps of those who paved the way for them in the male-dominated world of jazz.

The Girls In The Band makes its international debut at the 8th Dubai International Film Festival, which runs from December 7th through the 14th; and according to the film's website, playdates in several US cities will follow, NYC, San Francisco, Washington DC, New Orleans and more.

Watch the trailer below:

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  • Erin Li | December 7, 2011 7:04 PMReply

    Thanks Tambay, for covering The Girls in the Band! We can't wait to start screening the film in the U.S. Stay tuned...

  • kevin owens | November 28, 2011 5:11 PMReply

    check it out.

  • Logic | November 28, 2011 1:34 PMReply

    Really looking forward to this one.

  • Tamara | November 26, 2011 2:16 PMReply

    Yes, this is definitely needed. I can't wait to see this. I love music docs. These women need to be highlighted and remembered.

  • urbanauteur | November 26, 2011 2:09 PMReply

    HAZEL SCOTT,comes to mind , she was most adorably EASY ON THE EYES & EARS..:)

  • Erin | December 7, 2011 7:03 PM

    Hazel Scott is featured in the film! We'll be screening in the U.S. shortly - more info on our Facebook page at - Thanks for your interest and support!

  • Micah | November 25, 2011 11:00 PMReply

    It's well beyond time these ladies received recognition for their work and contributions to the genre!

  • Laura | November 25, 2011 2:44 PMReply

    As a trained musician (violin), I always in the look out for docs on female musicians particulary in male dominated instruments and genres. I remember coming across one jazz trumpet player -Valaida Snow. She's a black woman who was considered the female Dizzy Gillespie. Unfortunately for her she was on tour and end up the concentration camp. She was eventually released but needless to say that experience broke her and to my knowledge ended her career.

    Look forward of seeing this doc.

  • Brendan | November 29, 2011 9:17 PM

    The trailer made me think of Valaida Snow as well. I think that for women like her (I'm going to throw Rosetta Tharpe into here too, because she's fantastic) they got a pass because they could be sold as singers. Both women could outplay almost anyone in their backing bands but they toured as the upfront spectacle. Maybe a necessary marketing gimmick... A woman in the back playing didn't have any special allure for the audience, no concession for income, nothing. So she's an easier target, a threat to the men, a target for condescension.

    Which continues today. How often have we heard 'she's pretty good for a girl'?

  • HappyBrownGirl | November 25, 2011 2:23 PMReply

    This is freaking awesome! I'm doing dissertation research on black women musicians who play the acoustic but ESPECIALLY the electric guitar throughout U.S. popular music!

  • CareyCarey | November 25, 2011 1:39 PMReply

    I am with ADAWN, let me count the ways I like this post. Well, in short, speaking on this clip, it immediately inspired thought on other female jazz musicians that I can remember, which took me back to Sheila E right here --> and her and Prince right here --> And then, going further back, while researching one of the black pioneers of television and comedy, I stumbled across the following video (complete movie). In the video - at the 43:30 mark there’s a wonderful female pianist. I believe many of our great entertainers (movie & TV) have come to our a attention via music. HERE-->

  • aDawn | November 25, 2011 11:45 AMReply

    Thank you for this. This is the kinda thing I read S&A to know about! I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for it.

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